Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
The internal combustion engine is an amazing thing. However, amazing though it is, the internal combustion engine can and does get quite hot. In fact, experience has shown me that if it gets too hot, and the cooling system fails, the engine will cease to operate. When driving forklift, this becomes a double whammy, because if the radiator begins leaking, you are sitting on a fountain of hot water. Not a good situation.
So too it can be within the church. In the book of Revelation, we read of the church at Laodicea, which had fallen in the trap of materialism. So bad was it, they had become lukewarm to the Gospel and thus the message was that Christ would “spit them from my mouth”. They were then counseled to “buy” various specific items to correct their materialism and its associated spiritual apathy.
Alas, just as it was true in first century Laodicea, so is it true today. Indeed, the best example today is the “name it and claim it movement”. The poster child of this is no less than Mr. Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church of Texas, perhaps one of the largest mega-churches in the nation. Mr. Osteen is also the author of several books, all of which circle around the idea of how God loves you and wants you to live (materialistically) abundantly.
A typical Osteen sermon centers on a feel good message about living a better life, with various passages of scripture, taken completely out of their original context, that seemingly support his suppositions. Not once does Osteen mention sin or death, nor does his explain forgiveness of sins or salvation, never mind that he always ends his sermon with the “work’s righteousness” prayer of salvation. He has also been quite unwilling to state that Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father, which is clearly stated by Christ Jesus himself.
This is nothing new. A few years ago, there was another popular name it and claim it, it was known as the “Prayer of Jabez” (1 Chronicles 4:10). The proposition was that if you were to pray item that you want, God was obligated to give it to you. My own personal skepticism led me to attempt this, only for it to fail, and quite abundantly fail. Wisdom dictated that it would not work that, nor should it. It was, as I expected, simply taken out of context.
Sadly, Barak Obama, who presently holds the office of president, has gone on record as saying that Christians don’t know what is in their Bibles. Though he takes the scripture out of context to try to prove his point, the simple truth is that he is right. In that regards, the modern Christian church is, just like Laodicea, in hot water. Given that many in the church do not genuinely know their Bible, it simply is nothing more than opportunity for less than honest people to take and twist scripture to appease the itching ears and wickedness within the hearts of the people. Yes, Christians can fall into the trap of a materialistic faith, being lover of money more than lovers of God.
Can we get out of hot water? Yes. First, we need to recognize, just like an overheating radiator, there is a problem. The radiator should be fixed or replaced, just like we need to know our Bibles a bit better. Thus, we should repent of our materialism, and love God more than we love money. In that regards, we should take the Osteen book and put it away, turn off the television, and spend more time reading our Bible for ourselves.
Along side this, we need to also think of our motives. People like Osteen have provided an excuse not to attend church. If we can just watch a sermon on television, why go to church? This attitude is little more than further disregard for scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote very plainly that we should not forsake fellowship, which the worship setting. It is true we can worship God outside of church, but it is in the church where we hear the scripture and can be held accountable for it. Even if we hear it wrongly, we still hear it, even when it is through a false prophet. Such is not the case for those who refuse to attend church. In this, they are accountable for not being willing to gather together for worship and thus are without excuse for not hearing the scripture.
It would seem that unless we return to regular church attendance and repent of our materialism, we will remain in hot water. I have no evidence that a lack of church attendance was an issue in Laodicea, but they were obviously apathetic to the Gospel. So too, if we allow ourselves to fail to attend church and read our Bibles, we will become apathetic.
There is no excuse for sin. Only repentance. Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father. Materialism is merely repackaged idolatry. Apathy is the quickest route to idolatry. If we are truly called as Christians, we will gather for worship and repent of our sins, including apathy and idolatry. Any thing else is a poor excuse and we fail to live our faith.
I make no mistake. I am also a sinner. I too have fallen into the trap of apathy and materialism at times. I constantly am in need of confession and forgiveness. I have even forsaken attending church in my past. I repent of these things. May we all repent daily of our sins, including apathy and materialism. May it be that God grace and forgiveness be upon us and may we continue to gather regularly to worship our Lord and hear his word.